Friday, January 26, 2007

Credibility versus Relevance

In Balloon Juice yesterday, John Cole linked to a story in the New York Sun by an associate of Ahmed Chalabi, arguing that the insurgents in Iraq have started to collapse. Cole titled his post The Credibility Gap, which in my opinion misses the point. We have certainly seen so many breathless announcements that American efforts in Iraq have "turned a corner" that claims such as these merely remind us of a long record of disappointment and death.

But when I read about claims that the insurgents in Iraq have begun to despair, I do not look for errors or distortions in the facts. I welcome news, any news, that anyone anywhere has grown tired of killing people, and if even one insurgent in Iraq has given up planting improvised explosive devices, good for them. But in relation to overall American policy, this argument looks more and more like one element in a shell game. Put simply, the measures that many Bush partisans use to claim success have little to do with the goals they hold up for the project.

When the proponents of George Bush's policy in Iraq want to justify the invasion, they hold up the hope of a viable liberal democracy planted in the center of the Middle East and the Arab Muslim world. When they measure success, they speak of insurgents losing steam. But it seems quite clear by now that it takes far more than the end of an insurgency to bring forth a democratic government capable of dealing with the inter-ethnic conflicts in Iraq today.

Given the history of inter-ethnic conflicts, given the dismal success rates of democratic regimes implanted from outside, and given the record of overly optimistic claims of impending success in Bush Administration policies, I can only hope that this time, the insurgents have begun to put down their arms. But the winding down of the insurgency does not necessarily presage the emergence of a liberal democracy in Iraq, articles such as the one John Cole links have little relevance to the larger prospect of success for Bush in Iraq.

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